Sunday, November 29, 2015

53 years of James Bond, Part 2

Now let's take a look at the rest of the James Bond films

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The Good:  Best pre-credits sequence ever with a breathtaking ski jump by stuntman Rick Sylvester, Jaws fights Bond, excellent plot, Roger Moore finally gets comfortable in his Bond role, the Lotus Esprit car that can swim underwater as well as drive on the road.

The Bad:  Kurt Jergens as Stromberg is one of the weaker playing villains, Stromber's lair reminds us of Dr. No.

Gerber's take:  This is my favorite Roger Moore film and the third best 007 film in the series, Moore clashes with Jaws so brilliantly in a great story about the capture of USA and the now former USSR nuclear submarines hijacked as Bond's main woman is a KGB agent who might kill him for the death of her lover during the opening ski chase.  The casting of Barbara Bach as a smart Bond woman is a complete departure from Britt Elkland who set womanhood back a 100 years in the Man With The Golden Gun.  Grade: A

Fun Fact:  This is the first 007 film where Bond directly kills a woman (Caroline Munro as Namoi),   It is also the first Bond film to be shot is Dolby Stereo as well as the only Bond film where M's name was used (Miles)


Moonraker (1979)

The good:  Bond in outer space, Bond and Jaws tangle again, good plot to create a master race in outer space to destroy earth.

The bad:  The film takes the laughable route, at one point a "Magnificent Seven" type scene occurs.  Then the film goes the Star Wars route.

Gerber's take:  It's laughable at times and Roger Moore really does a lot of jokes - - but what makes this film so interesting to watch is the use o he space shuttles as well as the special effects - - just 2 years after this film was released, NASA launches the first space shuttle, Columbia (STS-1).  But Q line at the very end of the film ("I think he's attempting reentry, sir") is the best  of the Bond series.  Grade B

Fun fact:  #1 This is the fifth and final Bond film where the original and undiluted John Barry/Monty Norman 007 theme could be heard - - as well as the only Roger Moore film using said theme.  The others were Dr. No, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice and OHMSS.  #2  Director Lewis Gilbert's last film but more interestingly is the fact that it's his second film which deals with an outer space theme (You Only Live Twice)


For Your Eyes Only (1981)

The Good:  Roger's Moore's best film, good chase sequences, Topol, Bond finally kills Blofeld as well

The Bad:  Film suffers from rehash of previous Bond film with underwater sequences (Thunderball), and a ski chase (OHMSS) as well as the recovery of an encryption device (the Lektor in From Russia With Love),

Gerber's take:  Moore takes his role more seriously then his other Bond outings and Julian Glover is decent as the main villain.  There is a satisfying conclusion to Bond finally killing Blofeld after Bond visits his wife's grave, however the ski chase and underwater sequences remind us of past Bond films.  Grade C+

Fun Fact:  Julian Glover appeared in 2 episodes of The Saint's Roger Moore.  Coincidentally, at the end of a different episode of The Saint, "Luella" (1963), a woman would come up to Roger Moore's Simon Templar - looking forward to work alongside James Bond then asks Templar if he was James Bond.  9 years later, Moore would start playing Bond in 1972 for Live and Let Die.

Octopussy (1983)

The Good:  Carly Simon's theme song, Maude Adams returns to play the title character.  Good plot to start an Soviet invasion on Europe.

The Bad:  Moore getting silly but still holding his own, some actions sequences are getting worn.

Gerber's take:  Silly at times (Bond as Tarzan and a clown) but this is a film starting Roger Moore and he does provide the comic relief mixed in with a very good plot to disarm most of Europe by plating a nuclear bomb to kill thousands at a U.S. air force base in West Germany, allowing the Soviet Union to invade Europe.  This is a much better film than Never Say Never Again, however is falls short of the best Bond films.  Grade:  B-

Fun fact:  This is the first Bond film to use a title named after a female character as well the first actress (Adams) to "die" in one Bond film (The Man With the Golden Gun) then appear in another film.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

The Good:  Sean Connery comes back for one more Bond, good cast with Kim Basinger, Klaus Maria Brandauer, and

The Bad:  Thunderball ripoff plot, Connery gets beaten up most of the time, Since this was a Warner Bros film, not MGM-UA, no gun barrel sequence

Gerber's take: Producer Kevin McClory finally got his wish to see his Thunderball version on the big screen after a nearly 2 decade court battle with Eon Productions over McClory's rights to the Thunderball novelization by Ian Fleming.  He should have burned the entire production down.  The only bright spot in the film is Barbara Carrrera who plays the killer Fatima Blush.  Edward Fox plays a overacting M, lousy.   Grade:  D

Fun Fact:  The only differences between Thunderball and Never Say Never Again are the absences of the gun barrel sequence and the Aston Martin car in the latter, as we as some minor character differences between the two films (Emily Largo/Maximilian Largo, Fiona Volpe/Fatima Blush, etc.) and addition of the video game battle between Bond and Largo in the latter.  Adjust those items and you have two nearly identical films.


A View To A Kill (1985)

The Good:  Duran,Duran's theme song, Grace Jones and Christopher Walken as baddies.

The Bad:  Moore is too old and worn to play Bond anymore.  Plot to destroy Silicon Valley, CA - - ho hum.

Gerber's take:  Christopher Walken is a great actor but he is so stiff in this weak Bond film, Moore lacks the humor he exhibited in eariler films and he is bedding women half his age.  Grade C+

Fun Facts  #1  Patrick MacNee would be the third Avengers TV star to appear in a James Bond film.  The other two - Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg.  #2  So far, this would be the final James Bond film to be shot in the United States.


The Living Daylights (1987)  


The Good:  Bond seeking revenge against a drug lord, Dalton's final film

The bad:  Truck doing a wheelie?????  Oh please

Gerber's take:  Only Die Another Day tops the worst Bond film.  No megalomaniac bad guy, no interesting Bond, and it plays more like a made-for-TV film.  Banal Bond.  Grade:  F

Fun fact: #1 Final film for longtime Bond filmmakers Richard Malibum (Screenwriter), Maurice Binder (he's the one who created the famous Bond title sequences), and director John Glen.  Glen also was film editor of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.   #2  David Hedison is the first actor to play Felix Leiter in more than one Bond film.  His first appearance was Live and Let Die.


Goldeneye (1995)

The Good:  New Bond (Pierce Brosnan) reignites the Bond franchise after a 7 year hiatus,  Tina Turner belts out the title song, Judi Dench as the new "M".

The Bad:  Special effects start to take over the Bond series,  Some critics say Brosnan is nowhere near the league of Connery and Moore

Gerber's take:  No doubt Brosnan is a definitive improvement over Dalton but he is nowhere near Connery, Moore or even Daniel Craig.  There is a terrific chase between Bond (in a tank) and Ourumov (Gottfried John).  The film is Brosnan's best but he goes downhill from there with the next 3 entries.  Grade:  B-

Fun fact:  Joe Don Baker is the fourth actor who appeared as two different characters - - as the arms dealer Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights and as CIA agent Jack Wade.  Baker reprises his Jade Wade role one more time in the next film, Tomorrow Never Dies.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The Good:  Johnatha Pryce as an above average villian, good plot to cause WW III by a media mogul

The Bad:  Typical Bond formula

Gerber's take:  Part Thunderball (stolen missile), part From Russia With Love (encoder machine) - - with the only best parts are from Johnathan Pryce and Michelle Yech as a Chinese spy working alongside Bond.  Bond does his exercise by jumping over machine gun bullets, ho hum.  Grade:  C-

Fun Fact:  TND opened the same day as the epic classic Titanic, enough said!.

The World is Not Enough (1999)
The Good:  At last an original Bond plot that does not rely on previous films, spectacular opening sequence which is the longest in any Bond film, at nearly 15 minutes.

The Bad:  Robert Caryle as Renard is one of the weakest Bond villains,

Gerber's take:  After a fantastic pre-credits sequence where Bond escapes death then chases a woman who killed a friend of M's - the chase ends at the Millennium Dome and nearly 15 minutes into the film - the rest of the movie goes the convoluted route and becomes and exercise in action without rhyme/reasoning - - as well as a lack of character development.  Grade:  D

Fun fact:  Final film for Desmond Llewelyn as Q (Major Boothroyd).  Mr. Llewelyn remains the longest serving actor in a recurring role to date with 17 films over 36 years - - the notable exceptions where Lleewelyn did not appear in a Bond film are Dr. No and Live and Let Die.  (Never Say Never Again does not count because it's not an Eon produced film).

Die Another Day (2003)

The Good:  The 20th Bond film takes everything from the previous 19 films  (excluding Never Say Never Again which is a remake of Thunderball),, Halle Berry, Madonna singing the title song, Piecre Brosnan's final Bond role.

The bad:  Awful CGI takes up almost the entire film, too many scenes reflecting on the past 19 Bond films, plot is ripoff of Diamonds Are Forever

Gerber's take:  Positively the worst Bond film ever made - - instead of a film which reflects on the past 19 Bond films  - - it is crammed into almost every scene along with some of the most awful CGI special effects/  Take for instance the invisible car, Bond surviving an avalanche (shades of OMHSS) by now take a surf wave, Bond rescuing Jinx by finding a hot water area in a glacier filled scene (????).  Even Roger Moor hated this film (and he made it clear that shooting Bond in outer space was preposterous) Grade: F

Fun fact:  Almost every single reference to the previous 19 Bond films can be found in the "classified" MI6 page here  Even a page as detailed as this can have a couple of omissions too, one of them I know is the "house of mirrors" sequence in the "Thunderball" health clinic.  Those mirrors are from The Man With Golden Gun.

Casino Royale (2006)

The Good:  Daniel Craig as the new Bond.  Film is based on Ian Flemings first novel, the 007 franchise gets a new life with a "reboot" - how Bond gets it 007 status.

The Bad:  Longest film until Spectre, no gadgets,

Gerber's take:  Casino Royale is one of the best Bond films.  The film not only take us back to Bond's roots as a cold-blooded killer of bad guys, the film allows Daniel Craig to mold and grow into his Bond role. Instead of the phony CGI effects in DAD, we see Craig as not a cartoon character but a man who is vulnerable and intimidating.  The Madagascar Parkour chase sequence with S├ębastien Foucan as Molika is one of the best action sequences ever filmed, using Parkour free running moves.  Grade:  A

Fun Fact:  Loved that Parkour chase sequence?  You should because this foot chase it is the very first non-vehicle chase sequence in the entire 007 franchise (well 95 percent of the time as Bond hops on the back of a truck for a few seconds).

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The good:  Continuation of Casino Royale, Judi Dence as M has a larger role

The bad:  Shortest Bond film in history,  product placement is getting annoying (possibly because of the short running time),

Gerber's take:  QOS could have been a much better film if director Marc Foster and his crew took more time in continuing to develop Daniel Craig's Bond.  We immediately jump to a car chase sequence which looks like part of the northbound FDR Drive tunnels in New York City (but it's not, obviously) without any reasoning why this chase happened until after it ends (Mr. White from Casino Royal is tied up in the car's trunk).  The short running time builds on one thing, chase and action sequences - - and leaves little time on the plot development until the last 30 minutes of the film.  And the last 30 minutes of the film is not that great either.  Grade:  C-

Fun Fact:  To date, this is the only Bond film which as a car, boat and foot chase sequences.

Skyfall (2010)

The Good:  Craig in one of his better Bond roles, Judi Dench in her best role as M

The bad:  Judi Dench's final film as M

Gerber's take:  Judi Dench gives her best performance as M - - this film has a lot of character development as well as humor - - especially between Bond and the bad guy Raul Silver (played by Javier Bardem). Skyfall also makes you want to care about Bond relationship with his boss, M.  However, the final 30 minutes is disappointing, not so much when M dies but the overall action takes places in a house.  Grade B+

Fun fact:  Skyfall received the most Academy Award nominations in the entire Bond franchise with five, winning two of them (Best Original Song performed by Adele, also the first for a Bond film to win in song and sound editing)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris attacks in comparison to other attacks this year.

Blogger's note:  The Bond films and other stuff will resume next week,

Tragic

Paris and the world are mourning right now since ISIS orchestrated the largest terrorist attack in France since Hitler's invasion of Europe in 1939.  Social media and news media dominated coverage of the Paris attacks with millions of Facebook users using the France flag on their profile pictures.

But the attention on France is different from other terrorist attacks which get little or no interest in news and social media, like this interesting news page from the Inquisitir on the April 3, 2015 attack in a Kenya school which left 143 dead - - or the 2,000 innocent people in Boko Haram in January, 2015.   Both attacks were plotted by Islamic extremists like ISIS and both resulted in mass casualties.  They received little media attention and far less attention on social media.

And President Obama's response to the Paris attacks?  Forget it, he is a joke - - his response after a reporter grilled Obama during the G-20 Summit shows how much a joke he is on terrorism.


A human life is a human life - - we need to think about God's children, regardless of the city or country,


Pray for France, Kenya, Boko Haram, and everyone in this world.



Sunday, November 8, 2015

53 years of James Bond - - a look back (Part 1)



In honor of the 25th James Bond film, Spectre - which opened last month in the United Kingdom and this weekend across North America/Hawaii - here is a look back of the other 24 films over the past 53 years.  Part 1 will cover Dr. No through The Man with the Golden Gun


Dr. No (1962)
The Good: First film starring Sean Connery, Lois Maxwell (as Ms. Moneypenny) and Bernard Lee (as Bond's boss, M), that catchy Monty Norman 007 theme song, exotic Jamaica locales, Ursula Andress in that killer suit

The Bad: Film is dated compared to more recent 007 entries, no Q gadgets and car although Bond is introduced by his Walter PPK gun issued by Major Boothroyd (who is actually Q - - played by Peter Burton in his only 007 film appearance), Dr. No does not appear until about the last 40 minutes of the 1:50 long film.

Gerber's take: A solid opening film which Connery is in control of his debut role. Jack Lord, Joseph Wiseman, John Kitzmiller (as Quarrel) and Ms. Andress provide great supporting cast. Best scene: Connery telling Professor Dent that he has had his "six" (shots) before finishing him off.   Grade B+

Fun fact: Most of the Jamaica scenes were filmed when Jamaica was under British control - - prior to seceding as an independent county on August 4th, 1962


From Russia With Love (1963)

The Good: Strong plot line, first film to introduce Q branch (Desmond L and those gadgets which would become a hallmark for most of the Bond films, great train fight sequence. Excellent supporting cast of Robert Shaw.and Pedro Armendariz. First film of Desmond Llewelyn who plays Major Boothroyd, aka Q (he would go on to appear in a total of 17 Bond films over 36 years)

The bad: Amendariz died while filming, Bond does not have his own car yet, the plot introduction is a bit long before Bond first appears

Gerber's take: Great film with Connery wearing a hat more often in this film than his other entries. Robert Shaw is menacing as Red Grant.and the fight sequence aboard the Orient Express is unmatched to this day.  Grade A

Fun fact: As Bond, Kerim Bay (Armendariz) and Tatinia Romanova are boarding the Orient Express train after recovering the Lektor device, take a really close look at who first spots them. It's Krilencu who is seated at a table - - but he was killed earlier in the film by Bond and Bay's sniper rilfe (in retaliation for Krilencu's attack on Bay's gypsy settlement) while trying to escape through the "mouth" of a Bob Hope movie ad. You would really have to use pause and slo-mo to see this continuity goof.


Goldfinger (1964)

The Good: By many people, this is the quienssiential 007 entry, a really great plot with two of the best villians, Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and Oddjob (Harold Sakata) , Bond's clever escape from being sliced in half by Goldfinger's laser beam, Bond's first car, the Aston Martin DBV, Shirley Bassey's title song, the many one-liners and catchphrases throughout the film. First film to use an army of people to infiltrate a location where the enemy is hiding or attacking at the end of the film, - - (this would be a common sight for most of the future Bond films). And Pussy Galore,(Honor Blackman) of course.

The Bad: The film is too short to really enjoy it. Gert Frobe's voice was dubbed

Gerber's take: As much as I find Goldfinger to be a rich and invigorating viewing experience, it is actually number 2 on my list. Still, the many scenes where Bond matches wits with Goldfinger in face to face conversations highlight the powerful aspects of this film. Grade A+
Fun facts: #1) Look for a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant when Felix Leiter tracks Bond at Goldfinger's estate in Kentucky - - its when Goldfinger orders Oddjob to kill Mr/ Solo (one of the gangsters who does not want any part of Goldfinger's scheme to raid Fort Knox). #2 The name Auric Goldfinger is derived from Au in the first name - - Au is the symbol for gold in the Periodic Table of Elements and is number 79.


Thunderball (1965)
The good: Spectacular underwater sequences, strong plot, Connery still in top form, great action sequences, the jet-pack Bond uses in the pre-credits sequence

The bad: Longest film to date at 2:12, underwater sequences can be tiresome to watch for some people, overlong plot development, Emily Largo (Adolfo Celi) does not have the sinister acting like Red Grant or Goldfinger, the Aston Martin makes a brief appearance in the pre-credits sequence and is garaged for the rest of the film

Gerber's tale: I'm sorry, I feel this is the best Bond film because when you look at the detail of the underwater sequences it is amazing to watch humans instead of CGI play out their roles in several sequences. Connery is still fun to watch with his one-liners and relaxed attitude. Grade A+

Fun fact: Thunderball remains the highest grossing (adjusted for inflation) Bond film of all time at over $600 million.


You Only Live Twice (1967)

The Good: Plot involving outer space, Donald Pleasance as Blofeld, great Far East locales and action sequences, including Little Nellie, the personal autogyro with a lot of firepower.

The Bad: Connery looks old and tired (and gets beaten more often in this film), long sequences, Q's Little Nellie is the only gadget in the film.
Gerber's take: The film relies or a worn out Bond with Connery's one-liner's are now few and far between. The oriental sequences are a nice departure from the plot but some of the fight sequences are pointless against Blofeld's plot to capture space capsules to trigger a war between Russia and the United States. The overall film is still good compared to the Dalton and Bronsan films with a massive set involving an underground launch station below a "volcano".  Grade B+.
Fun fact: Charles Gray is the first non-regular actor to appear in two different Bond films, while playing two different characters (You Only Live Twice as Mr. Henderson and Diamonds are Forever as Blofeld). He is also the first actor to be "killed" off in one film then appear in another (Maude Adams is the first actress to do the same). But Mr. Gray is most famous as The Criminologist/narrator in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.


On Her Majestys Secret Service (1969)

The Good: Strong Blofeld (Telly Savalas), a new Bond played by George Lazenby (his only Bond film) great Switzerland locations, tragic ending

The bad: Longest film at 2:20, long drawn out plot, Lazenby lacks the charisma and class of Connery.

Gerber's take: If you really want one redeeming feature of OHMSS, Lazenby can act and he is the only Bond actor who cries. I really think if the film were not as long as it was, it would have been a great film. Lazenby, Savalas, and Diana Rigg are terrific in this film and frankly, it could have been one of the best if 20 minutes of this film were chopped off. Grade A-
Fun fact: The ABC TV broadcast of OHMSS in 1976 was butchered to show that Bond is narrating the story and the first scene in the TV showing was Bond escaping from Piz Gloria (about 80 minutes into the film) while the flashback sequence is actually the pre-credits sequence. If ABC had a hand to kill Lanzeby's reputation as James Bond off, it was this broadcast.


Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

The Good: Connery comes back for his purported "final" appearance as Bond, Amsterdam and Las Vegas locations, some interesting action sequences including Bond chased in a moon buggy, Bond's revenge against Blofeld for the murder of his newlywed in OHMSS, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd

The bad: The film does not answer how Blofeld escaped from oil platform, com

Gerber's take: Connery looks older and does not have the wit of his earlier films while the film takes a less serious tone. Jill St. John as a 40-something Bond girl does not help. Action sequences balance out the comic relief of this film - - I mean Willard Whyte was played by Jimmy Dean, are you serious?   Grade B-
Fun fact #1: Bruce Cabot played Bert Saxby, Blofeld's casino manager - - nearly 40 years ago he played the man who would bring King Kong to New York in the 1933 classic. Fun fact #2: Since this was Connery's "last" film, the final sequence shot was Bond knocked out by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd then placed in a coffin for cremation. The date of this final scene was on a Friday the 13th (source, IMDB).


Live and Let Die (1973)

The good: Roger Moore's first film, Paul McCartney's title song, great boat chase sequence, ,

The bad: No Q, poor plot (Bond goes after a drug dealer), film follows the height of the 70's blaexploitation film era.

Gerber's take: It's Moore's first film and he takes his "Saint" humor to an enjoyable romp. Yes the plot is thin compared to other Bond films and the ending is lackluster.  But enjoy this romp because you don;t need CGI to make a great boat chase like this film.  Grade B-

Fun fact: The subway entrance shown in this film is on the SW corner of Lenox Ave and 125th Street in New York City and is the downtown side of 125th Street station on the 2/3 lines.. Lenox Ave is now Malcolm X Blvd.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The good: Christopher Lee as a badass villian, a good car flip sequence, Bond targeted for death by a professional assasian. ,
The bad: Dull plot, Britt Elkland one the worst Bond girls, Clifton James returns as that now annoyingly Sgt. Pepper,

Gerber's take: Moore's worst outing (A View to a Kill is not far behind) and the film suffers from a lack of good action sequences - - the training camp was lifted from You Only Live Twice.  Sgt. Pepper's return appearance and Elkland's banal acting sink this movie which is too bad because Christopher Lee and Herve Villechaize were great villians in a so-so story which was directed by Guy Hamilton, his fourth and last Bond film.  Grade D


Part 2 will follow next week,.